Spring Break Scams Plaguing Students

March 05, 2014

A spring break trip can leave you “spring broke” if you’re not too careful. All generations, from college students to their parents and their grandparents have particular challenges during this brief vacation season. When planning that getaway from the daily grind of work or school, your Better Business Bureau(BBB) has a few suggestions.

Students fall for fraudulent spring break offers every year, some that lead to money loss and some that simply lead to disappointing experiences. Travel packages that do not include confirmed hotel space or airline flights get sold. Extra fees can get tacked onto the “deals” which were not revealed at the time of sale. These tips can help avoid unpleasant spring break travel experiences for college students:

• “Toogood to be true” travel offers at extremely low rates or that must be purchased immediately to lock them in, should be viewed with suspicion.

• Get it all in writing. That should include specific airlines and hotels, total cost, cancellation penalties and restrictions where applicable.

• If acharter flight is involved in your travel plans be sure to read the U.S.Department of Transportation’s tips on charter flights at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/publications/charters.htm

TRAVELTIP CHECKLIST — here are some additional tips to keephassles at bay as you make your arrangements for travel:

Call to confirm your arrangement with every hotel, car rental agency and airline involved in your trip.

Get everything in writing and ask as many questions as you need so that you are absolutely clear about every detail of your itinerary. No question is too obvious or too dumb. After all, your peace of mind is at stake.

Pay for everything with credit cards if possible. Disputes over charges later will be easier to settle through a credit card company. Remember that wire service funds should be avoided as a means of sending payment because they cannot be tracked or refunded. 

Let your financial institution know you'll be traveling out of town, especially if you're going out of the country, so they don't freeze your credit card due to suspicions of it being compromised. That will also alert your financial institution if purchases show up from other locations than where you’revisiting – an indication that your account may have been compromised during thetrip.

Consider your insurance. Check with your homeowners, auto and your medical insurance policies to know what is covered and what is not. You may have to purchase travel insurance if there is some doubt about your coverage. If you're renting a vehicle, confirm what your own auto insurance covers for auto rentals. You can avoid paying unnecessary fees to the rental company for insurance if you have adequate coverage through your own policy.

Let someone within your family or a trusted friend know the details of when, where and how you are travelling. Be especially mindful of “grandparent scams,” in which a scammer calls one of your family members claiming to be you and in trouble. They are trying to get money sent to them by your family member.Keeping your family informed of your whereabouts is a vital way to prevent scams like these that are based on family’s ignorance of where each other is.

Don't post pictures of your vacation on social media sites like Facebook while you're still away. This can make you a target of a burglary if the wrong eyes see that you and your entire family are out of town and are not going to be home any time soon.

Additional tips about spring break health and safety issues are available at the Centerfor Disease Control’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/family/springbreak/.